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Monday, August 24, 2009

'Skank blogger' story revealing in more ways than 1

The story of the "Skanks of New York" blogger illustrates how "unreliable" online anonymity can be for anyone considering hiding behind it to harass or defame others. "A Manhattan Supreme Court judge forced Google to unmask [the blogger Rosemary] Port, rejecting Port's claim that blogs 'serve as a modern-day forum for conveying personal opinions, including invective and ranting' and shouldn't be regarded as fact," the New York Daily News reports. Judge Joan Madden wrote that "the protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions," DigitalJournal.com reports. Online privacy groups are worried about the precedent his decision may set, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports, pointing to the view of the Electronic Freedom Foundation that using a court "as your personal private investigator to out anonymous critics is a dangerous precedent to set." Port told the Daily News that "she's furious at Google for revealing her identity, so much so that she plans to file a $15 million federal lawsuit against the Web giant." That you can't "count on" anonymity is a good family discussion to have, because it doesn't always take a court order to unveil a meanie or cyberbully, especially if blogger and victim are minors and in the same community, like a school, when administrators consider the behavior disruptive. [See also "Social intelligence & youth" and "Online harassment: From one who's been there."]

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